David Lehman |
for Jim Cummins
In Iowa, Jim dreamed that Della Street was Anne Sexton's
Dave drew a comic strip called the "Adventures of Whitman,"
about a bearded beer-guzzler in Superman uniform.
like Wallace Stevens
in a seersucker summer suit.
To town came Ted Berrigan,
saying, "My idea of a bad poet is Marvin Bell.
But no one has won as many prizes as Philip Levine.
At the restaurant, people were talking about Philip Levine's
latest: the Pulitzer.
A toast was proposed by Anne Sexton.
No one saw the stranger, who said his name was Marvin Bell,
pour something into Donna's drink.
"In the Walt Whitman
Shopping Center, there you feel free," said Ted Berrigan,
pulling on a Chesterfield.
Everyone laughed, except T.
I asked for directions.
"You turn right on Gertrude Stein,
then bear left.
Three streetlights down you hang a Phil Levine
and you're there," Jim said.
When I arrived I saw Ted Berrigan
with cigarette ash in his beard.
Graffiti about Anne Sexton
decorated the men's room walls.
Beth had bought a quart of Walt
Donna looked blank.
"Walt who?" The name didn't ring a Marvin Bell.
You laugh, yet there is nothing inherently funny about Marvin Bell.
You cry, yet there is nothing inherently scary about Robert Lowell.
You drink a bottle of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, as thirsty as
You bring in your car for an oil change, thinking, this place has the aura
of Philip Levine.
Then you go home and write: "He kissed her Anne Sexton, and she
returned the favor, caressing his Ted Berrigan.
Donna was candid.
"When the spirit of Ted Berrigan
comes over me, I can't resist," she told Marvin Bell,
while he stood dejected at the xerox machine.
came by to circulate the rumor that Robert Duncan
had flung his drink on a student who had called him Philip Levine.
The cop read him the riot act.
"I don't care," he said, "if you're Walt
Donna told Beth about her affair with Walt Whitman.
"He was indefatigable, but he wasn't Ted Berrigan.
The Dow Jones industrials finished higher, led by Philip Levine,
up a point and a half on strong earnings.
ended the day unchanged.
Analyst Richard Howard
recommended buying May Swenson and selling Anne Sexton.
In the old days, you liked either Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton,
Ted Berrigan changed that just by going to a ballgame with
And one day Philip Levine looked in the mirror and saw Marvin Bell.
Robert Duncan |
The man with his lion under the shed of wars
sheds his belief as if he shed tears.
The sound of words waits -
a barbarian host at the borderline of sense.
The enamord guards desert their posts
harkening to the lion-smell of a poem
that rings in their ears.
-Dreams, a certain guard said
were never designd so
to re-arrange an empire.
Along about six o'clock I take out my guitar
and sing to a lion
who sleeps like a line of poetry
in the shed of wars.
The man shedding his belief
knows that the lion is not asleep,
does not dream, is never asleep,
is a wide-awake poem
waiting like a lover for the disrobing of the guard;
the beautil boundaries of the empire
naked, rapt round in the smell of a lion.
(The barbarians have passt over the significant phrase)
-When I was asleep,
a certain guard says,
a man shed his clothes as if he shed tears
and appeard as a lonely lion
waiting for a song under the shed-roof of wars.
I sang the song that he waited to hear,
I, the Prize-Winner, the Poet Acclaimd.
Dear, Dear, Dear, Dear, I sang,
believe, believe, believe, believe.
The shed of wars is splendid as the sky,
houses our waiting like a pure song
housing in its words the lion-smell
of the beloved disrobed.
I sang: believe, believe, believe.
I the guard because of my guitar
I am the certain guard,
certain of the Beloved, certain of the lion,
certain of the Empire.
I with my guitar.
Dear, Dear, Dear, Dear, I sing.
I, the Prize-Winner, the Poet on Guard.
The borderlines of sense in the morning light
are naked as a line of poetry in a war.
Robert Duncan |
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,
that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein
that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.
She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.
It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun's going down
whose secret we see in a children's game
of ring a round of roses told.
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,
that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.
More great poems below...